Art of Illinois






EST. 1855



This exhibition catalogue depicts artistic works, including paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts objects, the earliest created more than 750 years ago, the most recent in 2016, and all presented in 2018 at the Illinois Governor's Mansion in Springfield. As part of the celebration of the Illinois Bicentennial, these exhibited artworks, defined as "Art of Illinois," have been installed for public viewing to coincide with the opening of the newly renovated Governor's Mansion.

The exhibition contains 27 paintings, 7 pieces of sculpture, and 59 works of functional and beautiful decorative arts, many of which have a special connection to the history of the Governor's Mansion and its occupants over the years. Of the 93 objects in the exhibition,

71 of them are loaned for the exhibition by public museums and private collectors located in Illinois; whereas, 22 of the works are the property of the State of Illinois.

The idea for this exhibition evolved from State of Illinois First Lady Diana Rauner's decision to renovate and reimagine the primary purpose of the Illinois Governor's Mansion. Under her leadership, the Illinois Governor's Mansion Association and its fine and decorative arts committee then determined that the aim of this renovation would be to enhance the experience of the Mansion's visitors, and thus inspire and educate our visitors about the historical and artistic accomplishments of the people of Illinois.

We truly believe that art holds the power to motivate and inspire its audiences and transform the world in which we live in a positive way. It is our hope that, through this celebration of the artistic achievement of artists and artisans of Illinois, visitors will leave feeling a sense of civic pride in our state and its people.

To produce this exhibition, we are especially honored to have enlisted three remarkably accomplished and talented individuals as the curators and designer of Art of Illinois.

To serve as the curator of the fine art portion of this exhibition, we are pleased to have Dr. Wendy Greenhouse, a Chicago-area independent art historian who specializes in American art of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. She has widely published, lectured, and curated exhibitions on the art and artists of Chicago, at area institutions including the Chicago History Museum, The Terra Museum of American Art, the Brauer Museum of Art at Valparaiso University, DePaul Art Museum, Illinois State Museum, and the Union League Club of Chicago.

The curator for the decorative arts portion of this exhibition is Sharon S. Darling who is currently an independent decorative arts historian living in St. Charles, Illinois, with a special expertise in Chicago's decorative art and industrial history.

Sharon Darling has previously served as curator of decorative and industrial arts at the Chicago History Museum and as the director of the Motorola Museum. She has produced numerous books, essays, and exhibitions on Chicago furniture, metalware, art pottery, and Arts and Crafts jewelry.

The designer of our exhibition is John Vinci, a renowned Chicago architect and preservationist. Throughout his extraordinary career, John Vinci has been the designer for more than 50 major museum exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago and other prominent museums throughout the United States.

The Governor's Mansion of the State of Illinois is now 133 years old. Throughout its history, the Mansion has been primarily known as the residence of the family of the state's governor and as a venue for ceremonial events. In its new 2018 version, the Mansion has been transformed into a place that truly celebrates our most enduring legacies, art and art history.

It is surely noteworthy that this exhibition, Art of Illinois, is likely the first ever such public presentation of historical art identified with the state of Illinois. With that thought in mind, we sincerely hope that this landmark exhibition records a time when the display of Illinois art became a defining feature of the Illinois Governor's Mansion and a high point of civic pride for the citizens of Illinois.


Take Home a Piece of History

"The Governor's Mansion, built in 1855, has been witness to the state's - and some of the nation's - most transformative events. From this home, our governors fought to free slaves, unshackle laborers, deploy troops for the great wars, lift families from the ravages of the Great Depression, and guide a fragile world at the onset of the Nuclear Age.

Art of Illinois, the first exhibition to be featured in the Mansion's newly defined public spaces, captures some of these transformations as well. The magnificent fine and decorative artworks on display - from the masterful hands of Illinois artisans, craftspeople, sculptors, and painters - deliver both historical insight and cultural wonder. That they arrive at this 200th birthday moment for the state is a fitting start to the next life of a home that, in its newest iteration, earns its place among Illinois Historic Places as The People's House."

- Mrs. Diana Rauner, First Lady of Illinois and Chair, Illinois Governor's Mansion Association

 Exhibition Collection

  • Decorative Arts

    Beautiful and Useful: Decorative Arts of Illinois

    Reacting to the dehumanizing effects of industrialization, Arts and Crafts practitioners embraced simplicity of line, durable honest materials, and the human touch.

  • Fine Arts

    Artland Illinois: A Brief Introduction

    Diversity and fluidity have equally marked the art life of the state throughout its two centuries, as a glance through the history reveals. At the time of the state’s birth, in 1818, the vast frontier lands of the young nation were already attracting visiting view-makers. Artists traveling through Illinois recorded the wonders of its prairies and rivers, native inhabitants, and burgeoning settlements for viewers in the nation’s eastern population centers.